By Jonathan T. Reid
Vina Tinoco, Executive Director & Founder, Next Up Foundation
Maricela Rosales, Outdoor Community Advocate, Latino Outdoors
Dave Prodan, SVP of Global Brand Identity, World Surf League
Moderator: Neftalie Williams, First Lecturer of Skateboarding Business, Media and Culture in the United States
It’s an exciting and pivotal time in sports as action-based activities such as skateboarding, rock climbing and surfing provide new and interesting ways for young people to be engaged in sports. As the problems of limited resources and access to traditional sports presents themselves, a new opportunity emerges to change the narrative around what is considered ‘sport.’
The common thread of these ‘nontraditional’ sports is in the dedicated community and culture they create and cultivate. Tinoco noted that skateboarding, a vital part of the Next Up Foundation he founded in Anaheim, has value in the way it engages youth to think about art. For the youth in his programs, skateboarding provides an outlet for kids who are not as interested in traditional team sports but previously did not have ways to express themselves while staying fit.
Prodan echoed this development with the surfing community. “Surfing becomes an all-encompassing lifestyle,” he said. “What do the world’s best surfers do in their day off? They go surfing.”
This attitude and lifestyle dedication is applicable to young skateboarders as well. The LA84 Foundation’s 2016 Youth Sports Survey revealed that skateboarding had the highest play frequency of any sport in Los Angeles County, in addition to being among the most diverse.
This led to a discussion of another key facet ongoing in nontraditional sport: an increase in affordability, access, and diversity. The Next Up Foundation targets underrepresented youth in Anaheim, while Rosales’ Latino Outdoors program engages not just kids, but families who may normally not have access to rock climbing. “I initially saw no diversity when I was introduced to rock climbing,” she said. “My father thought I was crazy, but he also told me to not forget about the community that needs this. He empowered me to be a catalyst to get other people in my community on board.”
Unlike sports that can be defined by wins and losses, action sports like rock climbing are focused more on fostering mental and social health in addition to physical fitness. “It’s not just a sport for athletics. I’ve seen 2-year-olds and people in their 60s climbing side-by-side. It’s communal, no matter your race, gender or identity,” Rosales added.
Williams expounded on the notion that action sports provides new ways to engage youth in sports and a healthy lifestyle. “It’s very easy to disenfranchise our youth by putting sport in a box. You play soccer, you play football, you play basketball. It’s up to us as adults to recognize the special things going on with our kids when they’re participating in things,” Williams said.
“Not every kid wants to compete, but every kid wants to play.”
What’s next? All three panelists emphasized putting money behind their sport, but also partnering with fellow nontraditional sports organizations to continue dialogue on multifaceted benefits of their programs. “One thing to do is look for organizations that are already doing work with youth and outdoor recreation, and possibly help create new programs for sports like rock climbing,” Rosales said.
READ MORE: LA84 Hosts Skateboarding Convening
“Surfing is something that transcends the actual activity,” Prodan added to a philosophy that keeps the World Surf League motivated to continue its outreach. “If we can inspire people to have a better life even if they never get in the water, we’ve succeeded.”